It’s hard not to engage in some of the online “debate” around the direction of Celtic and where we go next as a club. Some of it is extremely well thought out, logical, based on fact and analysis and presents hypothesis that are hard to argue with. ‘The manager needs replaced’. ‘The club needs a complete overhaul’. ‘Restructure of all things football related’ etc. There’s no doubt most of the points that are being aired are heartfelt and with what the individual perceives to be the best interests of the club he/she is invested in. What is becoming more excruciatingly obvious though, is that most of the online sentiment has long since passed objective and become a focused, frenzied attack on the current Celtic manager. In some cases it looks almost personal. Stepping back from it, you have to wonder what is driving this vitriol.
Before I start, this isn’t an impassioned defence or attempt at justification of this most shambolic of seasons in the past two decades, nor a defence of a management and coaching setup that looks to be at best lost and at worst totally dysfunctional. But simply an attempt at wondering where the fcuk the entire edifice cracked and when it started crumbling. Many are arguing it was in the showers at Hampden when we won the 3rd consecutive treble. Analysis would suggest it was a lot earlier than that.
I’d argue our club has been stale for over a decade now, ironically at a time when domestic dominance has led to a second 9IAR. Some argue the managed decline commenced when we hired Ronny Deila in June 2014, a man who hit the jackpot and came in to the main role when he’d interviewed for the number two role under Neil Lennon. A hardly stellar 50% win rate in domestic competitions partially masked a lack of tactical nous in European terms and an inability to manage a job the size of Celtic. By the mans’ own admission he was having sleepless nights towards the end of his tenure. However, the thoroughly likeable Deila arguably wouldn’t have been in the job had there been the natural cycle of turnover within the PLC and a natural turnover of footballing structure and personnel, along with ideas.
People talk of managed decline commencing with Deila’s appointment, some argue it even started when Lennon took over from Mowbray (interestingly making a lot of the same observations he’s making now on squad mentality etc). However a closer look at financial performance of the PLC would suggest Celtic simply hit a ceiling a decade ago and struggled to formulate a strategy that would actually see us participate in Europe and retain domestic dominance.
From a £61.72M turnover in 2010 (Europa League year) to a £64M turnover in 2014 (CL Season) to £72M turnover in year past (Europa League) . Even allowing for COVID impacts and inflation that’s nominal growth at best. £28.27M stadium revenues in 2014 to £36M 2019. Again, allowing for inflation it’s hardly stellar.
The board, and PLC under Peter Lawwell’s direction, perhaps spooked by both the power shift and financial risk profile of MON, appear to have taken a strategic position that both European and Domestic success were mutually exclusive. European participation was seen as the bonus territory and as such, financial prudence directed we wouldn’t bank on that level of participation, nor expend what was needed to get there. Seville was simply the outlier. The hangover financially far too painful. On reflection, the cycle of shifting from splurge to austerity and back again was simply a strategy to satisfy the masses. Feed them enough domestic cake, give them the odd ‘red pantie night’ in the CL, milk the tits off the ‘best fans in the world’ moniker and keep the show rolling. It appears we’ve never truly attempted to get back to a European context post MON. We never structurally nor ambitiously reached for the second gold star, no matter how unlikely the journey ever would be. The slow lane that MON warned of was repackaged as methadone for the masses. Thing is though, cake and methadone both make for enduring nausea eventually.
The financial analysis suggests that, as well as the PLC has performed, we either ceiling’d out, or took a more prudent view and risk averse path than was open to us. Echoing all those frustrations that we aired at the time. No one wanted a splurge to take us to the brink of going bust. Just some fcuking ambition. Stepping away from the herd and looking at this in a wider than COVID lens, it’s clear the PLC under Peter Lawwell adopted a conservative approach beyond that which can in retrospect be argued was appropriate. And the contradiction again stands similar to a decline while in the midst of domestic dominance; we’ve been ran extremely well as a business while going backwards in our core business. There’s a ton more analysis available here if you’re into that sort of carry on.
http://priceoffootball.com/tag/celtic/ There’s also plenty of “Us v Them” type analysis and charts in there to keep you thinking about what might have been. But all this leads me back to the crux of the note; popular delusions the madness of crowds.
It was a Scottish Journalist ironically, Charles Mackay, in the 1840’s who wrote of The Mississippi Scheme, The South-Sea Bubble, Tulipomania and others. Mackay wrote of how “whole communities suddenly fix their minds upon one object, and go mad in its pursuit”. It’s a cracking read and a cautionary tale of the hype of hysteria. You can read it here if you’re into that sort of thing: https://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/24518
I think I’ve managed to detach myself from the hysteria somewhat. I rarely engage on twitter, I observe it and digest. I chat with other sane minded Celtic people to see how they’re feeling. And in my generation or grouping, there’s a sense of detachment that hasn’t been there since the Kelly’s and Whites. It’s not all Lawwell nor Desmond’s doing. Nor is it squarely the limitations of Neil Lennon and his management team, or a bunch of players who’s professional integrity can and should be very much questioned. It just is a real here and now sentiment. Perhaps the best online example of where I feel Celtic as a club is was summarised by Roger Mitchell – yes, he of the former SPL brief from back in the day. Roger wrote on his twitter (@RPMComo):
”The problem for many of my generation is simple to articulate. The pedestal is too high! We actually believed in “more than just a club”. Each of us is different but many think this is really the parting of the ways. Really is Paradise Lost. It is for me.”
You can read the entire thread here: https://twitter.com/RPMComo/status/1356515626379075584
I find detaching from the madness provides sanity checks. So for what its worth, here’s my dozen sanity check points for today;
- We’re not as shite as people keep telling you. But we’re not very good either.
- We still have the highest level of resources available to any team in Scotland.
- Celtic will survive the pandemic intact, financially and structurally.
- European football is about to change utterly – Champions League participation from 2024 is likely to generate between €70M-€90M for a club of our size and domestic locale.
- We’re at the end of a natural cycle, epitomised by the winding down of arguably the second most influential captain we’ve had in 132 years of unbroken existence.
- The myth of having an underbelly of amazing talent was exposed in early January; the less we see of young players who haven’t even developed physically, the more we appear to believe we’ve a dozen Messi’s on the books all being neglected by the management team. We’re not good at developing players.
- We’ve just enjoyed a full decade of dominance, and there’s no reason to suggest we can’t go and do the same again with the right mix of hunger, drive, passion and an injection of modern thinking to push us on again.
- We’re about to build again and finally have new leadership blood in the PLC.
- We will most likely completely reshape our footballing operations to reflect new and modern thought and ideas
- Neil Lennon delivered a second 9IAR and a Quadruple Treble
- Neil Lennon is most likely not the man to leads us forward in a new, modern data driven direction.
- Neil Lennon is not working a ticket just to get a payoff. The man has more integrity than that.
And a wee bonus number 13:
- All you misplaced aggro and daft young turks, and older ones who should know better, personally attacking the man and his achievements – you can get right to fcuk.
Our implosion is painful and we’re all entitled to snipe, moan and have a go. It’s the joy of being in a club. However this “angry mob” pitchfork mentality is fcuking obscene. I sincerely hope I never have to sit beside any of the wee wanks currently orchestrating a campaign of hate against the current Celtic manager. I couldn’t stomach it. There’s a club right across the city founded in 2012 which behaves like that. Off ye fcuking go. You’ll fit right in. The behaviours are those of ‘spectators, not fans’ – to borrow the immortal words of Marcelo Bielsa. If that’s how you feel, hand back your season book and fcuk right off and do something else with your time. Celtic will endure long past you, or indeed I.
This season has been done in for months now. There’s nothing to achieve in getting any more annoyed I feel. Whatever change will come will come in the next short while. In the meantime, rejoice in what we’ve achieved in near two decades of dominance. We’ll rebuild from this bigger and stronger, with or without the angsty ones. And we’ll be better for it. Celtic will endure. Of that you can be certain. It has endured, unbroken since 1888, even when custodians ambition was as far removed from fans ambition as it is today.
‘You either win or you learn’ as the mantra goes. Ironically the less we win these days, the more I learn about my relationship with Celtic.
Here’s to hopefully a Scottish Cup, CL qualification and a new footballing dawn in the months ahead.
And to a third 9IAR in the 2020/2030’s. I wouldn’t bet against it.